Feeling California

This year, American wine drinkers are sending their fondest valentines to California Pinot Noir. A few months ago, Wine Spectator nominated Sonoma Coast’s cult favorite Kosta Browne as the wine of the year, crowning a season during which professionals and casual drinkers alike noted that California Pinot Noir, once characterized by unevenness and a certain cherry-berry flyaway personality, has become much more reliable, and much more enjoyable. This February, why not present your valentine with a bottle? Perhaps you’ll get to drink half, and experience the profound feelings that arise when a sensitive palate confronts a great red.


Estancia, Pinot Noir, Monterey County, Pinnacles Ranches, 2010

Ripe and rich with nice spicy depth, this might be America’s perfect table wine—tasty, likable, and widely available. Find it: Byerly’s, 3777 Park Center Blvd., St. Louis Park, 952-929-2100, lundsandbyerlys.com ($17)

Clos du Bois, Pinot Noir, North Coast, 2009

The core fruitiness of fresh cherry and raspberry flavors is given depth by the notes of dark berry and toast. Perfect with a simple roast chicken. Find it: Skol Liquors, 2500 27th Ave. S., Mpls., 612-729-2333, skolliquors.com ($17)

Calera, Pinot Noir Central Coast, 2009

One of America’s greatest Pinot Noirs, its mineral spine gives nerve and body to firm, ripe fruit flavors as a beautiful nose of bacon-and-sea-smoke threads through a bouquet of cherry blossoms. Find it: South Lyndale Liquors, 5300 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-827-5811, southlyndale.com ($27)

La Follette, Pinot Noir, Van der Kamp Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain

A cult wine is born! This brand new wine is of particular interest to industry insiders, because winemaker Greg La Follette used to work for the legendary André Tchelistcheff at Beaulieu Vineyards. He now makes his wine at the same facility (and from vines not so far from) as superstar winery Kosta Browne. Try this Pinot for notes of rose petals, cocoa, and a little nerve of wild mint; it’s complex, vital stuff. Find it: France 44, 4351 France Ave. S., Mpls., 612-925-3252, france44.com ($40)